Karam, Andrew. "How Do Fast Breeder Reactors Differ From Regular Nuclear Power
Plants?" Scientific American 17 July 2006: n. pag. Web. 18 Nov. 2009.
This article describes the key differences between regular nuclear reactors and fast breeder reactors. In a typical nuclear reactor, energy is produced when a Uranium-235 atom absorbs a neutron and splits, generating energy and releasing two neutrons. However, the neutrons released are traveling too fast to be absorbed by other U-235 atoms and have to be slowed down by a coolant. In a faster breeder reactor, the neutrons are not slowed down, the reason being that U-238, the more common form of uranium, can absorb fast neutrons and becomes Plutonium-239, a highly fissionable atom. In some fast breeder reactors, thirty percent more fuel can be produced than was put in. Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to this process. In order to use the Pu-239, the waste from the breeder reactor must be reprocessed and the plutonium extracted. In addition to this, Pu-239 can be used in the construction of nuclear weapons.
This article presents a brief description of the workings of a fast breeder reactor and its pros and cons. While there are no reprocessing facilities in the United States, which are necessary in the use of fast breeder reactors, fast breeder reactors may be used sometime in the future when uranium starts to become less abundant.
Goff, Lisa. "Quick Study: The Facts on Nuclear Energy." Reader's Digest 2009: n.
pag. www.google.com. Web. 11 Nov. 2009. <www.rd.com...
article81880.html>. This article details facts about nuclear energy.
After thirty years of relative inactivity, the nuclear power industry start
pushing for expansion in 2007, with nine new applications for nuclear power
plants and a push for a national waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
According to this article, 63% of Americans currently support the expanded
use of nuclear energy. The article points out the things that can go wrong
with nuclear energy, storage facilities losing coolant through accident or
sabotage, reactor meltdowns, Chernobyl-style explosions, and the
possibility of nuclear proliferation. It goes on to mention that new
reactor designs can minimize these threats, using natural processes to move
coolants rather than pumps. Also, progress has been made in the field of
recycling nuclear waste for future use. However, despite the majority in
favor of nuclear power, it is unlikely that major progress will be made in
the expansion of nuclear power.
This article comes from a reliable source and can be counted on to provide
correct information. The author does a good job of staying unbiased for
such a controversial issue. The statistics will likely come in useful later
in my project.
"The Nuclear Fuel Cycle." World Nuclear Association. World Nuclear Association,
Jan. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2009. <www.world-nuclear.org...
inf03.html>. This article is a description of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Uranium is first mined using either underground shaft mining or pit mining.
Uranium can also be mined using leach mining, in which groundwater is
circulated through an ore body, dissolving the uranium oxide and bringing
it to the surface. After this, the ore is milled, which extracts the
uranium from the ore. The ore may be only .1% uranium. The rest of the ore,
called tailings, is placed in engineered facilities near the mine. Only .7%
of uranium mined is fissionable Uranium-235, so the uranium then goes
through enrichment to bring the level up to 3-5%. The uranium is converted
into a gas, uranium hexafloride, and subject to either diffusion or
centrifuge enrichment. This enriched uranium is compressed into fuel
pellets, which are encased into metal fuel rods, which are in turn put into
a reactor fuel rod assembly. This assembly is put into a reactor and the
uranium is subject to fission, generating heat. This heat turns water into
steam which then turns turbines to generate energy. Plutonium is formed
within the fuel assembly and is used for fuel. From this process, one ton
of uranium generates 44 million kWh, the same as 20,000 tons of coal. After
12-24 months, the fuel rod assembly is removed from the reactor and moved
into a storage tank while the most radioactive elements decay. Fuel can
then be reprocessed, in which Uranium-235 and plutonium are removed and
later used for fuel, which both adds to the fuel supply and significantly
reduced the volume of waste, or simply put into a storage facility for
later use. There are currently no disposal facilities for nuclear waste,
though due to the small amount of waste and possible use of the fuel, there
is no pressing need for such a facility.
This article provides a good in site to the procedure that is used
to generate energy from uranium and what happens afterward. While I am not
yet sure how to use this information, it will be a good source for when I
seek to inform the public about nuclear energy.